Name: Ed Taaffe
Title: Business Analyst Consultant
Employer: HBOS plc
What company do you work for?
HBOS plc, one of the UK's 'Big 5' banks and Britain's biggest mortgage lender. HBOS is due to merge with Lloyds TSB in Jan 2009, which will create one of the UK's largest financial institutions.
What is your main role (not job title) at your current employer?
I am described as a Bridger, this is by my own choice after a number of identical roles that seemed to hinge on building bridges between the business leaders and IT people.
I'm not sure how it has come about, but I am increasingly finding a real divide between IT and business stakeholders to the point where businesses are sometimes choosing to outsource everything in the belief that they may have more control this way.
What do you find challenging about your job?
Explaining to business managers why implementing a new system isn't just a matter of taking it from the box, plugging it in and switching it on. Explaining to IT people that nobody cares how ‘cool’ software is they are just considering the benefits to the business.
What have you found that makes your job easier?
Some aspects of Agile make it easier to communicate concepts to a business and prevent over-engineering by the IT people. Being very collaborative while remaining entirely aloof in terms of loyalty has also proven to be a valuable strategy on many occasions for getting things done. I can achieve this when I am hired by the business to perform my role as opposed to when I am hired by the IT organization. Additionally, UML has been a huge help in understanding and communicating process issues and verifying requirements.
How did you become a Business Analyst in terms of career progression?
I left sales and marketing to become a developer. After leaving University I quickly found that my communication skills within an IT environment were more sought after so I began to take on roles in product development and requirements engineering. I gradually became more adept at improving processes as opposed to designing systems. I then was given the opportunity to learn and practice 6 Sigma which equipped me for a whole new level of process improvement activity.
What is one piece of advice that you would like to pass on to junior Business Analysts?
Never take sides, question everything at least three times and verify in groups what you collect in smaller groups or interviews. This way you end up with a solution that fits the collective intelligence and consciousness of the group and stands a greater chance of succeeding.
What does a day in your role as a Business Analyst look like?
Thankfully they vary an awful lot from meeting with the team, reviewing our progress, interviewing stakeholders one on one, running workshops, and creating models and documentation.
If you were to learn a new skill or competency what would it be and why?
I would probably learn about Neuro-Linguistic Programming or something along these lines so that I could improve my communication skills. I have no doubt that communication skills are 90% responsible for the successfully completion of any project. I believe that the biggest gains can be made by learning to be a better listener and communicator.